COVID-19 restart: Here's what you're allowed to do now that B.C. is in Step 3

People sit on rocks while cooling off in the frigid Lynn Creek water in North Vancouver, B.C., on Monday, June 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. is now in Step 3 of its COVID-19 restart plan, giving locals more freedom than they've had in months during the pandemic.

The province's top doctor and premier announced the move to the next phase of the restart plan Tuesday after local case counts continued to stay relatively low and vaccination rates rose.

"British Columbians have stepped up every step of the way during this pandemic," Premier John Horgan said. "I'm so proud, so proud to be a British Columbian based on how all of us have responded over the past 16 months."

Here are the changes to COVID-19 rules under Step 3

Masks no longer required

The mask mandate issued under public health order has now lifted and face coverings aren't required in indoor public spaces. However, health officials still recommend them for anyone who hasn't been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days, unless they're 12 and younger. Officials also say proof of vaccination doesn't need to be shown.

When the new rules were announced, Horgan said he would continue to wear a mask in some situations, even though he is fully vaccinated. 

"I'm going to be wearing a mask if I'm with a group of people that I do not know – if I'm on a bus, on a ferry, if I'm on an airplane," said Horgan, who received his second dose of AstraZeneca on June 18.

No size limits to personal gatherings

For the first time in months, there is no size limit to personal gatherings in B.C. Whether indoor or outdoors, Dr. Bonnie Henry says the number of people individuals gather with is now a personal choice.

"These are situations where these are people that we know … we know the risk, we know the vaccination status, we can invite people into our home based on our risk and the risk of those around us," Henry said Tuesday. "It is up to us to decide who we have in our home now."

Higher limits for organized gatherings

For organized gatherings, the size limits are now much bigger. Outdoor events can have up to 5,000 people or 50 per cent capacity, whichever is greater. Indoor events can have up to 50 people or 50 per cent capacity, whichever is greater.

There are no longer capacity restrictions on religious gatherings and worship services and fairs and festivals can return to normal with a communicable disease plan in place.

Fewer limits at restaurants, bars

Restaurants and bars have faced limits and closures through the pandemic, but under Step 3, most of them have ended. Group-size limits at tables are no longer in place, except those in established by the venue, and events are allowed. Liquor service hours have also returned to normal. However, socializing between tables isn't permitted.

Casinos and clubs can open

Casinos and nightclubs have been closed for most of the pandemic but on Thursday, they can reopen. Casinos must operate with reduced capacity and gaming stations can operate at about a 50 per cent capacity. 

Nightclubs can operate similarly to restaurants and don't need to have group-size limits at their tables. However, dancing isn't allowed and neither is socializing between tables.

Sports and fitness rules relaxed

Capacity has returned to normal for all indoor fitness class, gyms and recreation facilities. For outdoor sporting events, up to 5,000 spectators are allowed or 50 per cent capacity, whichever is greater. For indoor sporting events, 50 people or 50 per cent capacity is permitted.

Workplaces continuing to return to normal

Other workplaces are encouraged to return to normal operations. Bigger meetings are allowed and so are seminars. Workplaces can begin moving from a COVID-19 safety plan to a general communicable disease plan.

The top doctor first announced the province's four-step recovery plan last month. The earliest B.C. will lift more restrictions and enter Step 4 of its restart plan is Sept. 7.